Glimpsing life through other people’s windows is a fertile setting for drama, from Rear Window to Girl on the Train. You might even have spent some of lockdown wondering what your neighbours are up to. But it’s unlikely to have looked anything like Rambert’s latest live-stream premiere, Rooms, masterminded by the Norwegian writer, choreographer and director Jo Strømgren.
With brilliantly executed logistics, the company use three rooms and 16 dancers in a 60-minute stream of unexpected sets, scenarios and characters, ranging from the comic to the surreal to the disturbing. We go from three Hasidic Jews dancing to the radio, to a Rubik’s Cube contest, to lemming-like cult members throwing themselves out of a window; there’s bedroom farce, a few brushes with the law and a lip-sync to Purcell. There are hints at locked-away secrets and horror creeping in at the corners, some of it touchingly human, some of it cartoonishly silly. And in between, enigmatic, lyrical dances, bodies interweaving in the enclosed spaces.
Performing for a closeup camera is completely different to dancing on stage – you are so much more exposed than in the theatre. The impressive company carry it confidently, switching between characters and styles, dancing and speaking (scripts are delivered in multiple languages). Simone Damberg Würtz is particularly convincing and has great presence.
Rooms weaves a crazy tapestry of society, what we know and might not know about each other, how infinitely interesting and often annoying other people are. In one scene, an author guests on a podcast, riffing on whether digital life is isolating us from a real sense of society and shared references. There’s both familiarity and alienation offered up in the myriad lives of Rooms, but they are constantly clever, inventive and entertaining. Rambert’s artistic response to lockdown has been more inspired than many, putting the digital viewer first, and that’s paid off in creating an engaging, satisfying watch – and perhaps a sense of community in sharing a live experience – even when stuck in our own rooms.